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Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage

Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage (2012, Frontiers Records)

1. Wicked World … 4:40
2. Cirque du Freak … 4:13
3. Oh My Soul … 5:13
4. One of the Few … 4:01
5. Still In Love With You … 4:21
6. Can’t Stay Here … 4:08
7. Wardance … 6:00
8. Don’t Know What It Is About You … 4:55
9. Blind Fury … 5:06
10. Violet Moon … 7:38

Musicians:
Tony Martin – Vocals
Dario Mollo – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Roberto Gualdi – Drums
Fulvio Gaslini – Bass
Dario Patti – Keyboards
Brian War – Keyboards

If you’ve been following this blog for any decent amount of time or have conversed with me on message boards or Facebook, you’ve probably realized that I’m a big fan of Tony Martin. I rank his run in Sabbath second only to the great Ronnie James Dio. That said, I haven’t heard any of his side-projects or guest spots on other albums and have only heard the latest of his two solo albums (leaving 1992’s Back Where I Belong on my bucket list).

Dario Mollo, on the other hand, I know next to nothing about this Italian guitarist. Looking at his official website and the Frontiers website, I can tell you that he was in a metal band in the ’80s called Crossbones and in 2000 & 2005 released albums under the Voodoo Hill name with the legendary Glenn Hughes on vocals (I really need to check those albums out). He also did a UK tour as a member of the “Graham Bonnet & Don Airey Band”.

Also during this time is when “The Cage” series of albums came to be. Dario recruited Tony Martin to sing on and write lyrics for 1999’s The Cage and they paired up again in 2004 for The Cage 2. I was made aware of both of these projects awhile back and while I’ve seen good reviews for them, I never picked them up because they are, unfortunately, out of print and very expensive (I think I’ll pass on spending $80-$140 for a CD!). Well, at least now I am able to listen to the latest Cage album!

The first thing I noticed is that Tony Martin has not lost a step over the years. He sounds just as good here as he did on The Eternal Idol or Headless Cross. Not that I expected anything less because he sounded excellent on Scream as well. As for Dario, well, if you’ve got Glenn Hughes, Tony Martin, Graham Bonnet and Don Airey willing and wanting to work with you — then you know you’re pretty good at what you do. Some very nice solos and riffing going on here.

Though the album starts off heavy with “Wicked World” , “Cirque Du Freak” & “Oh My Soul” (the last two sound like they could’ve come from a Sabbath album with Tony), there’s a variety of styles to be found on this album. “One of the Few”, “Can’t Stay Here” and “Don’t Know What It Is About You” are all melodic rockers, taking Tony back to his musical roots and still displaying him as being just as comfortable singing these types of songs as he is singing heavy metal. “Still In Love With You” is heavy with an epic Middle Eastern-flair to it. “Wardance” is probably my favorite track on the album with the tribal rhythm of the drums and it’s just too catchy (“WAR!…DANCE!”). “Blind Fury” may be the heaviest track on the album while “Violet Moon” is a beautiful, near-trippy ballad that closes out the album.

There’s really not a bad track on this album. With each spin (and there’s been quite a few of them) I’ve grown to appreciate each song more and more but “Still In Love With You”, “Can’t Stay Here”, “Wardance” and “Don’t Know What It Is About You” were the instant standouts when I first listened.

How does The Third Cage compare to the first two Mollo/Martin albums? Don’t ask me! But I do know that Dario & Tony have delivered a great blend of hard rock, metal and melodic rock that has me wanting to snatch up whatever else Dario has done and has me wishing for even more new Tony Martin music.

Highlights: “Cirque Du Freak”, “One of the Few”, “Still In Love With You”, “Can’t Stay Here”, “Wardance”, “Don’t Know What It Is About You”, “Violet Moon”

Dario Mollo Official Website
Dario Mollo – Tony Martin The Cage Facebook Page
Tony Martin Facebook Page

Buy ‘The Third Cage’ at Amazon.com

Looking Forward to in 2012…

2012 is shaping up to be another spectacular year for rock music. This is a year that is going to see releases from KISS, Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Black Sabbath. WHAT YEAR IS THIS ?!?

In no particular order, here’s what I’m definitely picking up in 2o12:

AcceptStalingrad (April)
Accept really blew me away with Blood of the Nations. The band has proven there is life without Udo. In fact, I think many people would prefer the current line-up over the classic Accept roster at this point.

Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue (April)
These solid modern glam-metallers are currently in the studio working on their 3rd album.

KISS – Monster (Spring)
Obviously, this is the album I’m looking forward to most. Sonic Boom was a triumphant return to the studio for these guys, now that the wheels are well-oiled, I think Monster has potential to be even better.

SunstormEmotional Fire (February)
I missed out on the last Sunstorm despite good reviews. In the past year I’ve come to appreciate AOR/melodic rock more so I think I’m going to try out this Joe Lynn Turner-fronted side project when it’s released.

Crashdiet
No date yet set by these sleaze rockers but they are supposedly in the writing process now. I’m guessing sometime in the Fall.

Black Sabbath (Fall/Winter)
Another highly anticipated album for me because I’m really curious what it’s going to sound like. I’m not a big Ozzy fan, either as a solo artist or in Sabbath. I’d much rather see Iommi w/ Geezer go on to new projects (Iommi needs to give Tony Martin another call) but I still will be pre-ordering this one. My expectations aren’t all that high though given who is singing. I feel like he and Sharon are going to bring everyone else down to his mediocre level. Still, it’s exciting to know that new Iommi riffs and solos are coming.

Aerosmith (May)
So much prima donna drama in this camp over the last 5 years or so but hopefully that’s gone long enough to give us a new album. Granted,  I don’t really expect much from these guys in terms of, well… anything anymore. They’re kind of a joke at this point but with the legendary Jack Douglas back on as producer, I have no doubts that he’ll drag something out of them that’s better than the last studio album (2001’s Just Push Play).

Van Halen (February 7)
Geez, it was starting to look like the new Chinese Democracy, wasn’t it? No album title has been released yet but a release date has been and the first single will be released on January 10. Van Halen is another band that has become a joke over the years (despite the last tour getting rave reviews) but I have a good feeling about this album. The first album with Roth since 1984 and 1984! Rumored titles have been The Future and 2012 but I don’t think either will turn out to be true. Maybe IV though..?

Judas Priest
The band hasn’t definitely said a new album is coming in 2012 but they’ve been working on new material for a while now and seem to be looking at 2012 for releasing it. It’s a different songwriting dynamic now though. Instead of Halford/Downing/Tipton, it’s just Halford/Tipton. By all accounts, new guitarist Richie Faulkner is carrying his weight in a live setting so I think the album is going to turn out quite good. I do think it’s time the band delivers a straight ahead metal album though. Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus were good but not excellent. The band really hasn’t given the world that kick-ass classic metal album that they should’ve already done since Halford has come back. They really need a PainkillerHell Bent for Leather or British Steel at this point and keep it simple.

Primal Fear – Unbreakable (late January)
I have heard this album. It’s good. Plan on reviewing it soon.

Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage (late January)
See above. It’s great to have a new album out with Tony Martin on vocals.

Buckcherry
Maybe wishful thinking on my part but they were working on new material this past summer so hopefully something new will appear by next summer.

The Last Vegas The Other Side
No date announced yet but they recently released the free digital Other Side E.P. so I’d imagine we’ll have the new album by the spring.

Slash
His first solo album was one of the best records from the last few years and this time, Myles Kennedy is singing all the songs. Everything is written, all that’s left to do is record the songs so I’m guessing spring for this one as well.

Trans-Siberian OrchestraRomanov: What Kings Must Whisper
The second non-holiday from TSO, it was actually planned to be their first album way back in 1994 but they held on it while trying to get a Broadway musical out of it first. Night Castle was dark and cool while still keeping that trademark blend of metal, rock and classical music, I expect more of the same here.

Dokken
With a deal in place with Frontiers Records for the new album, I’m expecting something special despite never being a huge Dokken fan. Lightning Strikes Again was good enough for me to be interested in a follow-up. The plan, as of this past November, was to have recording completed by February.

Stryper
This album was actually delayed from this past year in favor of recording and releasing the excellent The Covering album of cover songs. According to Michael Sweet, two albums are in the works: the first will be an album of re-recordings (Why? Can we stop this trend, please?)  followed by an album of all-new material written in the same heavy, edgy vein as “God” from The Covering.

M-Pire of Evil
M-Pire of Evil is the renamed Primevil which itself was the reunited late ’80s/early ’90s line-up of Venom that featured Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on vocals/bass . I’m not well-versed on the comings and goings of the Venom roster but the “classic” line-up is split into two different bands right now. Conrad “Cronos” Lant is leading Venom with a few newer guys while the other two “classic” members (Jeff “Mantas” Dunn & Anthony “Abaddon” Bray) have hooked up again with Dolan for M-Pire of Evil.

They released an EP this past summer called The Creatures of the Black, which was pretty good and I liked the Prime Evil album (the only Venom release I’ve heard from this line-up) so I’m looking forward to a full length album. I couldn’t find anything resembling a release date but going by the band’s Facebook page, it should be soon because they’ve been teasing releasing the album cover.

Tooth And Nail (March)
The band that features 3/4 of the classic Dokken line-up. How does “Wild” Mick Brown still retain a position in Dokken while joining Tooth And Nail? Given Don Dokken’s reputation, you’d think he’d have been fired from Dokken by now. I mean, this band was named after a Dokken album and they’ve gloated over the fact that Don Dokken isn’t in the group (bassist Jeff Pilson will handle vocals). What’s weird is that on the band’s Facebook page, they list current Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy as a member as well… I guess he’s there for the live shows in case Brown has to go off and play in Dokken?

I’m probably forgetting a few more albums but oh well!

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol [Deluxe Edition]

Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol [Deluxe Edition] (2010, Universal Music/Sanctuary Records – UK Import)
Original Release: 1987, Warner Bros. Records

Disc One
1. “The Shining” … 5:59
2. “Ancient Warrior” … 5:28
3. “Hard Life to Love” … 5:00
4. “Glory Ride” … 4:49
5. “Born to Lose” … 3:43
6. “Nightmare” … 5:19
7. “Scarlet Pimpernel” … 2:05
8. “Lost Forever” … 4:03
9. “Eternal Idol” … 6:33
Bonus Tracks
10. “Black Moon” … 3:38
11. “Some Kind of Woman” … 3:15

Disc Two
1. “Glory Ride” … 5:21
2. “Born to Lose” … 3:41
3. “Lost Forever” … 4:17
4. “Eternal Idol” … 6:48
5. “The Shining” … 6:30
6. “Hard Life to Love” … 5:20
7. “Nightmare” … 4:49
8. “Ancient Warrior” … 4:54

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals (Disc One)
Ray Gillen – Vocals (Disc Two)
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Dave Spitz – Bass (Credited, does not appear)
Bob Daisley – Bass
Eric Singer – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Bev Bevan – Percussion

I’m such a freak about the non-Ozzy/Dio years that along with the Seventh Star reissue, this was one of 2010’s most anticipated releases for me. Now they really need to give Born Again and Headless Cross the deluxe treatment as well. If you want my thoughts on the original album, check it out here. Included with the original album are two bonus tracks that were included on “The Shining” single as B-sides: “Black Moon” and “Some Kind of Woman”. “Black Moon” later appeared as a track on Headless Cross but in a different key. So having an alternate take of “Black Moon” and now having “Some Kind of Woman” was a pretty big deal to me. Just for the sake of being a completist.

As with the Seventh Star reissue, the main course in my opinion is the second disc. But there’s no live concert, this time it’s the complete album as it was originally recorded with Ray Gillen (though it is not what would have been the final mix). I’m not sure how Sabbath fans felt at the time, but when I read about Gillen’s short time as Sabbath’s singer from other reviews and whatnot, it seems like a lot of hope and promise rested on Ray’s shoulder as if he singled-handedly could lead Sabbath back to the Promise Land. Did he hold the key to the band becoming a respected and legit group once again? I don’t particularly think so. I think people are fantasizing. They see that the band didn’t work so well commercially with Martin, so they say “oh, if they stuck with Ray they could’ve done so much better”. Plus, I think another reason people embellish with it comes to Gillen is because he died so young. Now I’m not knocking Ray Gillen at all. He’s a great singer but I just don’t think he could’ve ushered in some great new era for Sabbath any better than Martin tried to do.

Let’s be honest, Sabbath was a mess for most of the ’80s and into the early ’90s. While, musically, Iommi was certainly the band’s driving force, I don’t think he was a very good band leader. He was a bit too laid back and seemingly almost shy. That could’ve been countered if the band had great management, but they didn’t. So what you ended up with was poorly promoted and misguided albums & tours along with constant personnel changes. It’s amazing they were able to put out the quality music that they did, even if it wasn’t the evil doom ‘n’ gloom old school Sabbath fans wanted to hear. So yeah — Ray wouldn’t have changed any of that.

What Gillen did do was turn in a great performance live and in the studio. You certainly can’t knock his singing. Whereas Tony Martin had similarities to Dio, Gillen has a bit of a higher register, sounding much more like what I would expect from an ’80s metal singer. Maybe it’s just because I’m more familiar with him or because he does sound more like one of my favorite singers but I still prefer the Martin version over Gillen’s.

If you refuse to believe Sabbath ever did anything worthwhile without Ozzy or Ronnie, well, this reissue isn’t going to change your opinion. But that’s okay because this reissue isn’t meant for you anyway. It’s meant for all of us who can enjoy Sabbath’s later offerings and for us fans, I think this reissue is an important album to own.

www.blacksabbath.com

BLACK SABBATH – Death Called ’89

Black Sabbath – Death Called ’89 (CDR bootleg)
Recorded: June 9, 1989 at the Manchester Apollo in Manchester, England

1. “Headless Cross” … 6:39
2. “Neon Knights” … 5:35
3. “Children Of The Sea” … 6:01
4. “Die Young” … 6:29
5. “Iron Man” … 5:08
6. “When Death Calls” … 7:07
7. “War Pigs” … 7:09
8. “Heaven And Hell/Paranoid/Heaven And Hell” … 14:27
9. “Cloak And Dagger” … 4:36

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

A fantastic Black Sabbath live bootleg! I have such a fondness for Tony Martin’s run and a bootleg like this only helps to solidify the case that his time in Sabbath is extremely underrated. Taken straight from the soundboard, the quality is very good for a bootleg and Tony is in great vocal form and the rest of the band sounds like the accomplished musicians that they are. This was a great line-up and in 1989 Sabbath was on a creative roll having just released the excellent Headless Cross.

Of course, being that Sabbath has such a rich and popular history with Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio, Tony has to cover their material throughout most of the show. He does very well with the Dio material as there are similarities in their voices (even Dio himself has said that Tony Martin was ripping off his vocal style) but he falters when it comes to “Iron Man”, “War Pigs” and “Paranoid”. It’s not really his fault though. He’s too good of a singer to do those songs justice, if that makes sense. He sounds silly doing them just as Ronnie James or Ian Gillan always did. It just doesn’t work.

Other than that, really enjoyable live show and the crowd sounds fired up. Martin really shines on his songs “Headless Cross” and “When Death Calls”. Unfortunately those are the only songs of his own he gets to sing!

The final song on the album, “Cloak & Dagger”, is a studio track that was the B-side for the “Headless Cross” single.

This is a bootleg well worth seeking out and can easily be found online.

Highlights: “Headless Cross”, “Neon Knights”, “Die Young”, “When Death Calls”, “Heaven And Hell/Paranoid/Heaven And Hell”

www.blacksabbath.com

Review of Black Sabbath’s Tyr updated

http://metalexcess.com/2009/10/11/black-sabbath-tyr/

My copy of Tyr arrived in the mail today so I updated my original review a bit to reflect this version.

Albums I Missed in 2009

As in 2008, there were a number of albums released this year that I didn’t get around buying. Money may come from trees but it surely doesn’t grow on them! Some of these albums I’ve been aware of for awhile, others I just recently found out about. Oh well, here’s some 2009 releases I plan on picking up sometime in the near future…

3 Inches of Blood – Here Waits Thy Doom: They finally got rid of their “screamo” vocalist so now it’s all down to Cam Pipes’ shrill pipes. I’ve never had a problem with the music, just the second vocalist. I’ll probably get this one pretty soon because what I’m hearing online is great.

House of Lords – Cartesian Dreams: I had been waffling on this one for quite some time, then I thought I had finally decided to not buy it due to some wimpy songs I heard but I’ve read some more reviews, previewed some more songs and now I desperately want it! I’m no stranger to House of Lords, but I’ve never bought an album by them.

Bulletboys – 10c Billionaire: I’ve actually ordered this album TWICE this year (once from Amazon and once from CD Universe) and both times the order was delayed without notice and in the case of CD Universe they went as far as to delete the listing! I’ve heard cheers and I’ve heard jeers for this album, but I like the two or three songs I’ve heard. I don’t expect to be blown away, but I suspect it’ll be decent. I guess I’ll have to order directly from Chavis Records though.

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BLACK SABBATH – Forbidden

Black Sabbath – Forbidden (1995, IRS Records)

1. “The Illusion of Power” … 4:54
2. “Get a Grip” … 3:59
3. “Can’t Get Close Enough” … 4:28
4. “Shaking off the Chains” … 4:04
5. “I Won’t Cry for You” … 4:48
6. “Guilty as Hell” … 3:28
7. “Sick and Tired” … 3:31
8. “Rusty Angels” … 5:00
9. “Forbidden” … 3:49
10. “Kiss of Death” … 6:09

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Ice T – Vocals

Producer: Ernie C

Forget what you’ve heard — this is NOT a bad album! Listen to this album with an open mind like I did when I first heard it — chances are, if you’re a fan of Tony Martin Black Sabbath, you’ll enjoy this album. It isn’t best from that period, but I like it. I’m not sure where I would rank it though with the other Martin albums. Quite possibly, I would put it on level, or maybe even above Tyr (Headless Cross, The Eternal Idol and Cross Purposes being my top three).

People like to focus on Ice T and Ernie C being involved with this album, it’s an odd choice, sure, but it’s not quite as serious as some people like to make it out to be. Ice T shows up on “The Illusion of Power”, during the middle of the song, says a few words, then leaves. THAT’S IT. There is not a drop of rap-metal or rap-rock here at all. Ice T doesn’t even rap, he’s really just talking.

To this day, the album continues to be blasted, right down to the cover art (which I think is kinda cool). Give me a break! The album continues to see Martin in fine form and Iommi is busting out some great riffs.

As for Ernie C, I’m not sure why Iommi chose him. He and Ice T were in the rock band Body Count together at the time, but I think Ernie was already signed up as producer before Ice T came along.

This was one of the other Black Sabbath CDs I had ordered used from an Amazon.com seller and it never arrived even though the seller said they sent it. Thankfully, my metal brothers are looking out for me as a message board buddy was able to snag me a used copy from his local music store (thanks Shiney!!).

This album quickly followed 1994’s Cross Purposes as a way for Iommi to finally be free of his deal with IRS Records. According to whichever source you listen to, Iommi also had his eye on reforming the original Sabbath group long before the completion of this album as well. Only time will tell if this will be the last Black Sabbath album… Given that history is so prone to repeating itself, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of falling out with Dio and then Iommi turning to Martin once more!

Highlights: “The Illusion of Power”, “Get a Grip”, “I Won’t Cry for You”, “Sick and Tired”, “Forbidden”, “Kiss of Death”

www.blacksabbath.com
www.heavenandhelllive.com
www.myspace.com/heavenandhelllive
www.tonymartin.net
www.myspace.com/officialtonymartin

BLACK SABBATH – Cross Purposes

Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes (1994, IRS Records – Canada Import)

1. “I Witness” … 4:58
2. “Cross of Thorns” … 4:34
3. “Psychophobia” … 3:14
4. “Virtual Death” … 5:49
5. “Immaculate Deception” … 4:15
6. “Dying for Love” … 5:53
7. “Back to Eden” … 3:57
8. “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” … 4:30
9. “Cardinal Sin” … 4:21
10. “Evil Eye” … 6:05

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bobby Rondinelli – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Producer: Leif Mases and Black Sabbath

After a brief detour to reunite the Heaven and Hell/Mob Rules touring line-up featuring Ronnie James Dio, Tony Martin once again found himself in the band after that ego-driven line-up  inevitably imploded again. Dio refused to participate with the rest of Sabbath as openers for Ozzy Osbourne on a couple of his “retirement” shows in ’92. Rob Halford stepped in for those two shows, but it was Tony Martin got the call from Iommi asking him to take back the role he had performed so well in (though not commercially well) from ’87-’91.

This was technically Martin’s THIRD time in the band as the initial Dehumanizer sessions weren’t going too well (Geezer/Iommi butting heads with Dio) and Martin came back for a few months in ’91 before getting booted again at the insistence of Warner Bros. Records execs who wanted only Ozzy and Dio for the next Sabbath album. WB had a vested interest in the project as they had paid a large chunk of money to IRS Records to get the rights to the next Sabbath album.

From that brief second Martin-era, song ideas were worked on that were not intended for Dehumanizer (in fact, as I’ve heard, the entire Dehumanizer sessions were to be scrapped had Martin stayed on). It’s obvious from listening to Dehumanizer and listening to Cross Purposes, that there are similarities and many of these songs were written while the Iommi and Geezer were on a creative high from the Dehumanizer sessions. This is one of the most consistent albums of the Tony Martin-era and there is very little in the way of the melodic and AOR rock that we had last heard on Tyr (Tony often sings in a lower register on this album). The songs are heavy, somewhat alternative/grungy (“Virtual Death” sounds like a lost Alice In Chains song) and there’s definitely an old school doom ‘n’ gloom Sabbath flavor to it all as well.

For anyone convinced Black Sabbath was too lightweight when Tony Martin was fronting, I suggest you give this album a spin.

An frustrating story goes along with me finally owning a copy of this one. I first owned a CD-R copy, but in August ’09 I had ordered a used copy from a seller based in Canada on Amazon.com. The expected arrival date came and went, the seller said they shipped it the day after I placed my order and I was given a refund. Well, nearly a full two months after the order was said to have shipped, it FINALLY arrived in my mailbox just the other day. I had ordered two other CDs on the same day I ordered this album (from a different seller who says they shipped them the next day as well) and they’ve never shown up either. Hopefully, they will. I had become convinced someone at one of the local post office branches had stolen my CDs, but I guess the mail is just extremely slow these days.

Additionally, my CD-R copy had the Japanese bonus track “What’s The Use”, which unfortunately is not on this used CD. It’s a song well worth tracking down, it has a quicker tempo than any of the songs here and it sounds more like the first three Sabbath albums with Tony Martin.

It is widely thought that Eddie Van Halen, while not credited for it, co-wrote “Evil Eye” with Geezer and Iommi. The plan was that he would also play on the song, but scheduling problems forced him to back out. Not sure if any of this is true or not, I’ve read other sources saying he didn’t have anything to do with it and I don’t think EVH or Black Sabbath have ever commented on it.

Highlights: “I Witness”, “Cross of Thorns”, “Virtual Death”, “Dying for Love”, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”, “Evil Eye”

www.blacksabbath.com
www.heavenandhelllive.com
www.myspace.com/heavenandhelllive
www.tonymartin.net
www.myspace.com/officialtonymartin

BLACK SABBATH – Tyr

Black Sabbath – Tyr (1999, EMI/IRS Records – UK Import)
Original Release: 1990, IRS Records

1. “Anno Mundi” … 6:12
2. “The Law Maker” … 3:53
3. “Jerusalem” … 3:59
4. “The Sabbath Stones” … 6:46
5. “The Battle of Tyr” … 1:08
6.  “Odin’s Court” … 2:41
7. “Valhalla” … 4:42
8. “Feels Good to Me” … 5:44
9. “Heaven in Black” … 4:05

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Neil Murray – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Producer: Tony Iommi & Cozy Powell

Finally I own a copy of this album. I actually thought I did own it for a bit thinking that Headless Cross was the only Tony Martin album I was missing, but then I discovered my mistake and quickly tracked down a used copy online for $15. Pretty good deal in my opinion because the album usually goes for $20-30. I knew this album had a few different reissues but when I ordered my copy, it didn’t list which version I’d be getting. I assumed it was the original release but it turned out to be the 1999 reissue from EMI that was a part of the “Classic Rock Series”. “Classic Rock” meaning the England-based music magazine. The magazine gives away freebies with every issue but I never knew they actually had put their name on reissues at one point. Of course I would have preferred the 1990 edition but I’ll take what I can get. There’s some nice liner notes about the making of this album anyway. The album cover is slightly altered with a white border going around the album’s original green border.

Tyr is a bit of a step down from the two previous Sabbath albums, but it features another great band line-up. Between the first Dio era and the second Ozzy era it was a game of musical chairs, but Iommi always kept top notch musicans in the band. Here, we get bassist Neil Murray (Whitesnake, Gary Moore)  joining. Neil and drummer Cozy Powell had previously worked together in Whitesnake and Neil also played on Powell’s three solo albums from the early ’80s.

If the Gillan era is referred to as “Purple Sabbath”, what is this line-up? White Sabbath? Blacksnake? Maybe Black Powell (c’mon, you know that’s funny)?

I’m not sure what was going on with this album. It’s good, I do like it, but it doesn’t hold a candle to The Eternal Idol or Headless Cross. Those two albums rode the line between hard rock and AOR quite well, but this album seems to lean more towards the melodic side of rock and is heavy on the keyboards. I guess that’s not surprising though because the half & half concept of Norse mythology and Christianity behind Tyr was something Martin was pushing for and Martin’s background is melodic rock and not heavy metal.

I’ve read comments from Iommi where he didn’t really seemed to be too impressed with the album’s themes, but I guess you can’t really complain when you refuse to help write the lyrics.

“Feels Good to Me” was the band’s unapologetic attempt at getting a hit single. It doesn’t really fit the rest of the album, but I still like it.

Tony Martin would re-record “Jerusalem”, giving it an even more AOR sound, on his 1992 solo album Back Where I Belong.

Highlights: “Anno Mundi”, “The Law Maker”, “Jerusalem”, “Valhalla”, “Feels Good to Me”

www.blacksabbath.com

www.heavenandhelllive.com
www.myspace.com/heavenandhelllive
www.tonymartin.net
www.myspace.com/officialtonymartin

BLACK SABBATH – Headless Cross

Black Sabbath – Headless Cross [Mini LP Edition; Japanese Import] (2010, Universal International)
Original Release: 1989, IRS Records

1. “The Gates of Hell” … 1:05
2. “Headless Cross” … 6:32
3. “Devil & Daughter” … 4:45
4. “When Death Calls” … 7:00
5. “Kill in the Spirit World” … 5:13
6. “Call of the Wild” … 5:21
7. “Black Moon” … 4:08
8. “Nightwing” … 6:43
BONUS TRACK
9. “Cloak & Dagger” … 4:36

Band:
Tony Martin – Vocals
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Cozy Powell – Drums
Geoff Nicholls – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Brian May – Guitar solo on “When Death Calls”
Laurence Cottle – Bass

Producer: Tony Iommi and Cozy Powell

This is one of my favorite albums of all time and I’ve been trying to track down a copy of this out of print album down on CD for quite some time, but the prices are just too high for even a used copy ($30-40). I’ll have to wait until some miracle arrives and in the meantime, I’ll settle for this CD-R copy.

When I heard this album a few years ago, it was the one that made me stand up and pay attention to Black Sabbath. It wasn’t Ozzy, it wasn’t Dio, it was TONY MARTIN that made me a Sabbath fan. There’s been a lot of criticism over this era of Sabbath going in an AOR/eighties hard rock direction, but it doesn’t bother me in the least because it’s quality music. This album does such a great job in carrying on the dark and “evil” vibe that Sabbath was stereotyped for, yet uses a more commercial form of hard rock. The first two Tony Martin albums were so good that I truly do believe if Iommi was able to release these records under his own name or give this group an entirely different band name the story would’ve been much different and these albums would’ve been successful.

For the sake of doing something different, let’s go song by song:

“The Gates of Hell” – I’ve really enjoyed the instrumentals put on the Sabbath albums in the ’80s. They’re usually pretty creepy and evil sounding and the intro track “The Gates of Hell”, as short as it is, is no different.

“Headless Cross” – Along with “The Shining” from The Eternal Idol, this is one of the signature songs from the Martin era and it also stands out of a great Sabbath song, period. Fantastic mid-tempo number with great vocals by Martin.

“Devil & Daughter” – The pace picks up for this song. Like “Digital Bitch” from Born Again, I’ve heard this was about Sharon Osbourne (and her father ex-Sabbath manager Don Arden) but who knows.  It would have easily just been another random batch of evil lyrics. It was originally called “Devil’s Daughter”, but was changed because Ozzy had a song being released of the same name.

“When Death Calls” – Starts out slow and haunting, then builds in pace and peaks with an Iommi solo. Have I mentioned yet how great these songs are to sing along to?

“Kill in the Spirit World” – Very AORish at points, with touches of the continuing hauntedness. Initially, I didn’t appreciate this song much, but I’ve grown to love it. The idea behind it is interesting — what happens when the already dead do bad? Why, their spirits are killed, of course! Nice solo by Brian May of Queen!

“Call of the Wild” – I’ve never liked this title. C’mon, what, are they talking about going to the bathroom? This was originally called “Hero”, but was also changed because Ozzy beat them to the punch. I love the chorus and this is a great tune while working out in the gym!

“Black Moon” – Originally released (in a different key) as a B-Side to the single “Eternal Idol” from The Eternal Idol. Somewhats sounds like Ozzy Sabbath, but it just doesn’t work me. Not horrible, just average.

“Nightwing” – I once read a quote from Tony Martin somewhere that this song was about “things that fly… bats and stuff”. Good to see he put so much thought into it. I think he tried too hard with song lyrics sometimes, just writing what he thought he should write and not necessarily what he wanted to or had a passion for. Though I think this is the weakest song on the album, I’ve since changed my initials thoughts and enjoy this song very much.

So there you have it– the best Tony Martin Sabbath release and easily one of Sabbath’s best! Even though the band didn’t have a bassist at the time (hiring Laurence Cottle to play on the album but not to join the band), this is probably the best lineup of the Martin years. Ex-Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell and longtime keyboardist Geoff Nicholls made some great contributions to the group when they were in (more than they were ever given literal credit for).

UPDATE 7/23/10:

I finally got my hands on a legit copy of this album. Thanks to Manny for pointing me in the right direction on eBay! I bought a sealed copy of this Japanese reissue from someone in Russia! I’m becoming a fan of these mini LPs. This particular mini LP is pretty cool and very well done. There’s a cool band photo when you open up the album and then there’s the “slip” for the CD (which is made up to resemble the original vinyl release of this album) that has all the lyrics and then there’s also a mini-poster featuring the album cover and in Japanese there’s another booklet talking about the history of Black Sabbath. Wish I could read it!

Much to my surprise, “Cloak & Dagger” was included as a bonus track. It’s not listed on the back of the album but is mentioned on the cover and on the Japanese booklet. It was the B-side to the “Headless Cross” single and previously had only been a part of the album on the picture disc version. I really like the song, it’s a bluesy number that sounds a bit like Whitesnake. Martin even seems to emulate Coverdale some on this song.

Highlights: Oh, who am I kidding? The whole thing is a classic!

www.blacksabbath.com
www.heavenandhelllive.com
www.myspace.com/heavenandhelllive
www.tonymartin.net
www.myspace.com/officialtonymartin

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